British Agriculture Bureau update

Friday, 25 October, 2019

The British Agriculture Bureau (BAB) office is the permanent office of the UK farming unions in Brussels and since 1972, has been the base from which Ulster Farmers’ Union staff and members, lobby Brussels-based politicians and stakeholders. Expert BAB staff have been at the heart of discussions on everything from the CAP to pesticide legislation to new EU trade deals for over 40 years and have witnessed immense change in agriculture politics and policy over that time. People assume that Brexit means the BAB office will no longer be necessary in the future, but the reality is that UK farmers will need Brussels representation more than ever over the coming years.

The uncertainty in recent times means that it is impossible for us to take our eyes off the ball in terms of agriculture developments in the EU. Not only are we in the position where much of current EU legislation still applies in the UK, but changes to that legislation might also be very relevant for trading with the EU in the future. Continuing to understand these developments and where possible, influence them, will therefore be a continued vital service for members.

There is no doubt that when the UK government decides future policy direction it will look to its closest neighbours for either inspiration or to understand what paths should be avoided. Through the networks and contacts that we have built in Brussels we can also better understand industry developments across Europe and use this information to strengthen our lobbying messages at home.

Working with Copa (the European farmers’ organisation) for so many years has enabled UFU members and staff to meet frequently with farmers across the whole of Europe and allowed us in BAB to build relationships and networks that will last long into the future. These partnerships will continue to be vital. However, Brussels is not just for EU business but is a global hub for agri-trade and industry bodies from beyond the EU’s borders. These bodies understand the importance of the EU market and recognise that EU policies and people shape conditions for international businesses at all levels in the food chain. It therefore makes complete sense for Northern Irish farmers to retain a base at the heart of the EU and to meet, listen to and learn from the UK’s biggest trading partner.